Stand up for a longer life
Sitting at a desk while reading this? You may be reducing your life expectancy.
Results from a recent study by professor Peter Katzmarzyk reveal that excessive sitting (3 or more hours per day) can shave years off your life, even if you are an exercising, cigarette-avoiding lady or gent. The research–aimed at nailing down the effects of sitting and television watching on life expectancy in the US–indicates that 2 years can be tacked on to life if adults reduce the time spent sitting each day to less than three hours, and 1.38 years can be added if they reduce television viewing to less than 2 hours per day.
Scary, right? (I am now writing this standing up.)
What is perhaps most troubling is the evidence that, no matter how healthy and active someone is, sitting is still harmful. “We see it in people who smoke and people who don’t,” stated Katzmarzyk (in an interview with Yahoo! Health). “We see it in people who are regular exercisers and those who aren’t. Sitting is an independent risk factor.”
This is not the only analysis revealing how sedentary activities may send us to an early grave. Authors of another study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise tracked and analyzed the lifestyles of 17,000 men and women over 13 years and found that people who sit for the majority of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of heart attacks.
But why is sitting so terrible? Sure, we burn less calories than we would standing and therefore weight gain may result, but this goes beyond packing on a few extra pounds. As far as the risk for heart disease and other illnesses, researchers are not entirely sure why sitting increases such risk. Marc Hamilton, Ph.D, one of Katzmarzyk’s colleagues, believes it may have to do with an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL). LPL breaks down fat and turns it into energy, and in research on rats, standing rats have nearly ten times more of it than those laying down. The fitness of the rats is irrelevant; when the rats lay down, LPL levels go down with them. This could play out similarly in humans.
Evidence of the harmful effects of sitting continues to emerge, but for those who work behind desks, finding an alternative to the office chair may be difficult. There are ways, however, to maximize leg time.
“Try to stand as much as you can,” Dr. Katzmarzyk said. “Typically when you’re on the telephone you can stand with speaker phone. Instead of emailing someone in the office, just get up and go talk to them.”
Other possibilities include using a stability ball
instead of a chair, designating 2-5 minutes every 30 minutes to take a stroll (or jog) down the hall or up a few flights of stairs, or simply standing while you work. If your colleagues eye you as you do squats while answering emails, link them to this blog or suggest an office-wide chair boycott.
Check out this infographic for additional sitting-related content or read the original study here.